UPDATED with new information: There was a snafu at IATSE Local 600 in the recent balloting for a new film and TV contract. Numerous members of the International Cinematographers Guild say they never received the ballots for the new contract, which covers 43,000 members at 13 Hollywood locals, including Local 600, which has national jurisdiction. (Correction: Deadline published an earlier version of this story that said Local 600 President Steven Poster had vowed to be “transparent” about the final vote count but had yet to make good on that promise after two weeks. Local 600 subsequently told us that its leaders had posted the vote totals on its members-only website. The story has been revised to reflect that.)
A few days before the August 24 voting deadline, Local 600 President Steven Poster, writing on behalf of the local’s seven elected officers, sent an email to the local’s members explaining the situation.
“Within the last few days, we started receiving reports that members in the eastern and central regions had not yet received their Basic Agreement ratification ballot package,” he wrote. “The ballots were mailed by the American Arbitration Association on August 6, so we were dismayed by the delay and concerned that these members would not have enough time to cast and mail their ballots in time to have AAA receive them by the deadline on Monday, August 24. We have successfully used AAA to mail ratification ballots before, so we were surprised by the problem.”
The local, he said, “Promptly took a number of steps to address the problem. We overnighted replacement ballots to members who requested them. We also inquired whether the deadline for ballot receipt and the counting of the ballots could be delayed a few days to accommodate our eastern and central region members. Unfortunately, we learned that the deadline could not be extended, because all other locals and members would have to be advised of the extension and because of the need to complete the ratification process by the end of August. To assist our eastern and central region members, we have arranged with the AAA that it will accept and count ballots sealed in the blue envelope that are collected by our New York City, Atlanta and Chicago offices and forwarded to AAA by overnight mail.”
In addition, he wrote, the local “convinced AAA to collect all Local 600 ballots that arrive between Tuesday August 25 and 5:00 p.m. on Thursday August 27, and provide them to us. The IATSE will only count the ballots received by Monday August 24, and will announce the official vote based on that count. Local 600 will collect these additional ballots, open and count them, and announce that count.”
“We are greatly disappointed that Local 600 members have had this problem,” Poster wrote. “We have acted quickly and diligently to remedy the situation where possible. We will be transparent in our efforts and the additional ballot count.
By law, unions are supposed to be transparent. That’s why the Department of Labor requires them to provide annual reports detailing the salaries of all union employees — from clerical workers all the way up to the top executives — and for unions to disclose all of their finances, including all income and expenditures.
The law, however, does not require unions to disclose the vote totals for contract ratifications. That’s why the IATSE and the DGA can get away with simply stating, year after year, that their contracts were approved “overwhelmingly” without disclosing how many members voted or how many voted to approve or reject the deal. That was the case with the IATSE’s recent ratification of a new film and TV contract, even though many members of one of the union’s biggest locals are saying that they never got the opportunity to vote.
The WGA, by contrast, gives an exact breakdown on the number of members who vote on its contracts and how many voted for and against it. SAG-AFTRA also releases the percentage of members who vote, and the percentages of how many votes are cast for and against proposed contracts.